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Fisheries Management: Fish Stocking

Planning for Fish Stocking and an Improved Fishery

Young_Girl_Fishing_cFall is a beautiful time of year. The leaves are changing, frost is on the grass, and you can walk outside in the morning and see your breath. Similar to the weather outside, budget season is starting to cool down. Many budgets are in their final stages and time is running out to include last minute pond improvements for 2016. If you are a community pond manager thinking of a spring or summer holiday fishing tournament or a private pond owner hoping to take your kids or grandkids out for memorable afternoons, fall is the time to determine your fisheries goals and budget for your spring fishing improvements. Most of the popular warm-water game fish, like largemouth bass and bluegill, are in high demand and supplies of catchable size fish become depleted every spring. Due to a higher demand than the supply can support, many pond owners are not able to stock the large fish they desire because they wait until spring to start planning.

The further north in the US that you live, the more you need to plan ahead. This is because southern states, such as Texas, become warmer much earlier and as result they are able to stock fish earlier every year. By the time ponds in the mid-Atlantic and northeast warm up, the southern states are done stocking fish for the spring, often times depleting the available supply. By planning ahead and placing your fish order several months in advance, you are able to secure the exact fish your pond needs, rather than stocking less ideal, smaller fish because the bigger ones are no longer available. Fortunately, some fish species, such as fathead minnows and grass carp, have a supply that can keep up with the demand. Although these species are readily available nearly year round, it is important to plan ahead for these fish since they are stocked to provide a specific result such as mosquito or vegetation control.

Planning ahead and scheduling the work a couple months in advance will ensure your fish are stocked at the ideal time. This is especially true for species such as grass carp, which require a permit. For those who want to make improvements to your fishery, but do not have an understanding of what needs to be done, it is oftentimes best to hire a biologist to complete an electrofishing study. The process of electrofishing will greatly reduce the number of assumptions made, as a result it both allows you to spend your budget more wisely and also helps to ensure your fishery develops properly, giving you better odds of achieving your goals.

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Electrofishing is a process where trained fisheries biologists use a boat that generates electricity to temporarily stun fish so they can be captured and placed into a livewell to be measured and released. This is often done by SOLitude’s biologists to better manage a fishery by determining what fish are already present in the pond, and what improvements need to be made to help bring balance to the predator to prey ratio. This makes electrofishing and stocking the perfect ‘one two punch’ combination in the spring to jumpstart your fishing for the entire year. One exciting side benefit to having a biologist electrofish your pond is that several guests are allowed on the boat to assist in the data collection. Following a safety talk and a description of how it all works by a trained fisheries biologist, guests are able to join in on the fun and educational session.

Though the strategies of electrofishing and fish stocking can be done throughout the growing season, they are most effective when the water warms in the spring and again when it cools in the fall. In fact, many ponds managed for trophy fishing are electrofished and stocked in the spring and fall. Whether your goals are simply a healthy fish population for family and community fishing and friendly tournaments or a competitive trophy fishery, contact a SOLitude Lake Management fisheries biologist to determine a strategy that best meets your ponds goals and budget. Plan ahead to ensure your success!

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